(Photo from my cousin's Facebook page, today, presumably at the Norwegian Consulate in Copenhagen)
The rain isn't abnormal, but it certainly matches the tone of grief. Rainy days in Denmark do not keep people indoors, just as darkness does not keep them from venturing outside. Otherwise, no one would ever leave home, as one can expect some rain to fall most days, most of the year. In the deep of winter, called Mørket (The Darkness), light filters through overcast skies from maybe 930 to 1530, and Denmark is very south.
The Danes and other Scandinavian countries have developed their sense of community on several principles. All must live in this weather, this climate, this geography. And in order to survive, as a person, family and community, one must embrace kinship despite personal and political differences. Hyggelig is an expression to describe the sense of warm feeling, coziness and kinship. It is maintained with frequent coffee and pastries, snaps or beer, long parties in the garden at summer and long dinners in winter.
Always, there are lights.
The light of Norway will not be extinguished, even though the flames of a few passionate and vibrant youth have been put out this weekend. The light of kinship of the Scandinavian community will not be blown away, it cannot be. Hardly 70 years ago, they lived through the occupation of the Nazis, and stood in solidarity with the principles of peace, and freedom. My own grandfather did his part in assisting the underground network that helped almost all the Jews of Denmark escape to neutral Sweden. Peaceful resistance in occupation led to fewer deaths, and did not lead to victory for the Nazis. Denmark, Sweden and Norway still bear the scars of occupation.
Today my mother expressed her sorrow and regret, as she and all of Denmark too must grieve their Norwegian cousins. They live in a fairy tale world. It is true, this wonderful existence where people trust and share. It is not blind trust, but formed through avid discussion, engagement and education about oppression and the true meaning of democracy, freedom, equality, openness. These will not disappear. The problem to solve is how to bring more people to awareness and away from the violent solution.
This year brings for me the birth of three sons- two cousins, born to two of my cousins, sisters, a week apart. And one nephew, to my brother and his wife. A remarkable year for our family, and perhaps the last year any more of us will be born for a long time. These three young men, all Scandinavian descent, two in Europe and one in San Francisco, will all be born to face a world none of us can yet see coming. Each young man will have to wonder where his ideals and identity belong, the path to take on his education, politics and philosophy. Each will have to go through the moments of darkness all young men must face, again and again, as they choose towards life and light and community- or towards death and destruction and desolation. Surely, none of them would ever fathom committing any such horror? If they are anything like their parents, they will all be tree hugging, eco conscious, non violent, politically engaged and spiritually balanced and aware. For that, I am supremely grateful, and resoundingly hopeful.
Right now, they are little, tiny boys, infants, who are not yet the men they are going to be. I hope for them that when they are grown, they have a seat at the table for progress and development. I think of my own family, scattered across the globe, all born after the end of the occupation, and with no memory of the fear their parents and grandparents endured in those dark years. I will do my part to steer them towards a path of freedom and peace, knowing they must understand their own destiny for themselves.